By and and  on September 10, 2009

The ENK Vegas checklist included value pricing, immediate deliveries and fashion differentiation.

Those concerns made 7 Diamonds a key stop with buyers, as it offered 400 styles of fashion-heavy shirts at wholesale prices of $42 to $45 — with everything in the booth available for immediate delivery.

“We are all about immediates,” said David Dagnino, an account executive with the Tustin, Calif.-based firm, which sells to Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom and Metropark, among other retailers. “We have the inventory now and the trends now.”

Short sleeves were a key category, as they were strong sellers for the brand over the summer, Dagnino said. The tops-oriented company also added leather jackets ($145 at wholesale) and puffer jackets ($54) to its collections.

Mike Zack, owner of Circa 2000 in Plano, Tex., was among the fans of 7 Diamonds, and he also liked the T-shirts from Wet Cement and leather jackets from Lot 89. However, Zack was frustrated by a lack of direction in bottoms. “Everybody has so much denim, but then what?” he said.

Wally Naymon, owner of upscale boutique Kilgore Trout in Cleveland, was shopping the vintage cardigans and silk-cotton V-necks at Crossley, with Fred Perry also on his list.

Although business continues to be tough, Naymon said, “People’s moods are improving. They know the world is not going to end and there’s finally been some good news. That attitude means they’re ready to be challenged by great product.”

Since Pierre-Henri Mattout took the creative helm of Victorinox, the brand has become more technical and more fashionable. Both directions were on display at ENK, where retailers had their choice of 138 brands at the Lafite Ballroom in the Wynn Hotel, up from 84 last season. Buyers approved of Victorinox’s ripstop quilted jackets, stretch plaid shorts, neoprene waist swim trunks and soft Cocona polo shirts. U.S. sales director Paul Delaware said the brand’s prices dropped on average 25 percent for this season, noting that a waterproof jacket with laser-cut details, once $500, now retails for $285.

Denim made a strong showing, with brands such as Hudson and J. Brand taking prominent booths. At Hudson, black resin finishes and white denim were key trends for spring. “A majority of our business is clean finishes, but some extreme washes are doing well,” said Mark Tourgeman, national sales manager at the Los Angeles-based brand.

Almost 70 percent of men’s denim sales at Hudson are in 2 percent stretch denim, signifying that guys have embraced the comfort factor of the material. Tourgeman added that lightweight 9.5-oz. denim was popular with men’s buyers.

At Agave, founder and designer Jeff Shafer showcased two new subcollections: Agave Silver and Agave Gold. The former is Shafer’s foray into a younger, more contemporary product, with slimmer legs and lower rises. The Silver-label jeans feature cleaner stitching and denim blended with rayon for an ultrasoft hand feel. The line is priced about 15 percent higher than the core Agave line, with jeans retailing for about $225.

The Gold range sells for about the same price, even though it uses more expensive Japanese selvedge denim.

“We actually sell it at an artificially low price — it just about covers our expenses,” Shafer said. “I wanted to be able to offer the very best denim product to our customers, which I think will help make them brand-loyal.”

Mario Bisio, owner of the upscale Mario’s stores in Seattle and Portland, Ore., said he postponed buying denim and denim-friendly sportswear until he could attend ENK Vegas.

“The customer is still coming in the door, but they want new and fresh merchandise,” he said. “But as retailers, we have to be relatively conservative — with lower open-to-buys, everything counts.”

New York-based Number:Lab offered a sophisticated take on activewear, with Dri-Fit panels on T-shirts and nylon shorts. Founded in 2004 by a former architect, Luis Fernandez, the collection encompassed both loungewear and sportswear in soft pima cotton in pop colors and lots of breathable paneling.

American Colors by Alex Lehr featured gauzy wovens, often double-faced and plaid, which were popular throughout the shows in Vegas. Graphic T-shirts were also a key item, with vendors presenting modern takes that were lightweight and translucent, in either solids or allover prints.

Jason Laurits, founder and designer of graphic T-shirt line Paste, described his line as a recession garment. “They are affordable, we can deliver in weeks and there is nothing corporate about them,” he said in reference to the line’s allover floral print.

Many vendors championed their own brand of democratic style, including newcomer Company of We, whose product included pleated shorts retailing for $118; cropped sweatpants, $114, and a double-breasted sport coat with knit cuffs, $259.

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